Four reasons you should care about Ansel Adams

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

If you’re living in Durango, you probably love open vistas, ridges of snow-capped mountains and the stark, dramatic Western landscape. Well, so did Ansel Adams, who was one of America’s best-known and most prolific landscape photographers. The Farmington Museum is offering a special visiting exhibition of his work, on display from January through April, featuring a collection of 47 photographs. This collection includes about two-thirds of the photos Adams himself selected, late in his life, to serve as a representation of his greatest artistic achievements.

We’ve come up with four reasons why you should care about Adams, even if landscape photography isn’t your thing; Adams is probably the best-known photographer of this genre in the world, so you should at least see what all the hype is about.

1. You’ve seen his photos everywhere

I guarantee you’ve already seen Adams’ iconic, high contrast black-and-white photographs all over calendars, posters and books (even if you didn’t know they were his). Adams’ photos imbue nature and our planet with a spiritual profundity. He first rose to eminence photographing the American West (especially Yosemite National Park).

2. How he captured the West

Adams’ photography primarily focused on lingering fragments of untouched wilderness, especially in national parks and other protected areas of the American West. He was frequently criticized for not including people in his photos, or for depicting an “idealized” wilderness that barely exists in our country anymore – but the splendor of his photos have long since encouraged Americans in their attempts to preserve we have left.

3. His conservation efforts

Adams was not merely an artist – he was also an activist. He used his work to espouse environmentalist values, promoting the conservation of wilderness areas; and believed fervently in the possibility of mankind living in agreement with its environment. From 1934 to 1971, Adams served as a director of the Sierra Club. In the ’80s, he attacked the environmental policies of President Ronald Reagan. Many of Adams’ books were produced not just to promote his photography, but with the goal of raising awareness to preserve the natural landscape.

4. His influence on photography as an art form

As a newer technology, photography was not always respected in the art world on the same level as painting or sculpture, especially when Adams began his career, prompting him to use his clout in the field to increase public consideration of photography as a fine art. In 1940, Adams helped found the first curatorial department devoted to photography as an art form at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In 1946, at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, he created the first academic department to teach photography as a profession. He additionally revitalized the idea of the original (chemical) photographic print as an artifact, something that should be sold as an art object; and Adam’s prints sell for quite a lot of money these days!

Anya Jaremko-Greenwold DGO Staff Writer


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